John Paul
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John Paul

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April 17, 2007

A common phrase that appears in a great deal of music writing today is one involving an artist’s ability to "paint pictures with their songs." If this sentiment was the norm, then The Black Tie Affair go above and beyond it. In short, these guys completely surpassed the canvas, and instead are gleefully throwing paint all over the walls, creating massive murals. In his lyrics, guitarist/keyboardist/singer John Paul completely immerses the listener in the environment he is describing.

Paul originally met up with a few of his current band mates while playing in bands in high school in Maine. Originally a drummer, Paul made the transition to guitar not long before The Black Tie Affair’s formation. "You have to be a lot more tame playing guitar. [On drums] I could go nuts. I can’t really start running around the stage now." The position change offered Paul an alternate perspective on his old instrument, however. "Our drummer (Mike Medina) writes parts that are not what I expected at all, it really changes the feel of the song, it’s more ear-opening."

Crowds should be willing to open their ears to The Black Tie Affair, however, as the band trades in extremely well written rock music that tows the line of indie, while retaining unmistakable melodies, all carried by Paul’s voice, sometimes wavering, sometimes falsetto, and sometimes both within the same song. This unpredictability only adds another dimension of depth to songs like "Winter Trek," where Paul’s gift for lyrical imagery shines right through, resulting in a song that almost actually gives off a snowy white light. While Chris Medina lays down a completely fat bass line, Paul adds twinkles on keyboard, while lead guitarist Mike Rodrigue provides long phrases of guitar, almost like icicles. The keyboard tone changes when Paul begins singing the line "the seasons change," as if signifying spring heat.

The band is no bunch of slackers in the musical department, as songs like "Spanish Courage" exhibit the band’s ability to switch dynamics at the drop of a hat, switching from a straight ahead rock beat to waltz time several times throughout the song. Vocally, Paul gives a stunning performance in "Breathe Slow," his voice seemingly straining with rage at times before diving right back into falsetto.

"There are so many bands up here, so much competition," bemoans Paul, explaining the transition he had to make from high school musician to college. While such concerns are perfectly valid, Paul shouldn't worry so much. It would be a safe bet to say The Black Tie Affair have a fighting chance in this town.

www.myspace.com/theblacktieaffairmusic

-Erik Ziedses des Plantes - 88.9 WERS


Singer-Songwriter-guitarist John Paul serves up a healthy dose of catchy, upbeat pop-rock numbers on his well played and produced album "Belmont Boulevard." Melding roots, Americana, pop and country, John Paul does a superb job mixing the elements for a signature sound all his own. The kid also proves to be a pretty good singer which pushes his material well over the top.

John Paul is ably assisted by a host of fine players that include drummer Brad Pemberton, bassist Billy Mercer, Dan Dugmore on mandolin, pedal steel, guitar and dobro, pianist Jason Lehning, Singer Emily Fox and singer/percussionist Tom Acousti. When the music world is governed by wannabe avenues like American Idol and America's Got Talent, it's refreshing to know that artists like John Paul are making "real" music for the rest of us. And we appreciate it! Outstanding. - Metronome Magazine


It’s been a relatively short, intense and very productive musical run for John Paul, a full-time student at Emerson College and one of the rare talents that can create an album from drums to guitar and piano to lyrics. He recently released his new album, “Winter Trek,” in mid-July, as a follow-up to plenty of performances and recording.

John Paul started recording the new album in earnest after Tom Acousti, who’d been a seven-time winner on Star Search in 1994, judged his band at a statewide Battle of the Bands in Maine. “We started to talk and click together and he ended up producing half the tracks on the album last summer,” he says. “At first I recorded six songs with him for fun, but then they turned out real well so we went to BigSound Studios where producer Jon Wyman (Jeremiah Freed, As Fast As, Headstart!) recorded my drum and bass tracks.”

His choices of collaborators on the album have been very deliberate. “Being a drummer at heart, I wanted real good drum sounds and I knew Wyman was the man to create those sounds,” says Paul. “Mike Lambert worked with me on the other half of the album, he has recorded all my past bands (Stillview and The Posters) so I knew I’d like to work with him as well.

That’s quite an accomplishment considering that his musical career has only spanned 10 years. Beginning with drums in 4th grade, he added turntables a few years later, then guitar, bass, piano and vocals. “I can also play a mean tambourine when needed,” he says.

The first song he wrote and recorded was at 16, an homage to a cute girl with whom he thought he was in love. “It was called Real…we listened to it in her car outside of her house with her mom looking through the kitchen window to make sure we didn’t make out,” says John Paul. “I wrote and recorded all parts of the song from drums and bass to guitar and lyrics.”

His songwriting has developed since that first effort. John Paul characterizes the sound as “schizophrenic.” In one song, I am making fun of pop culture—in the next, I am talking about doing certain romantic things to girls, then hating my life and denouncing the female gender,” he says. “But I’d like to think this is the beauty of my music: it’s not the same songs over and over, they tell different stories, and a listener will have a good time with this record.”

Along the way, he’s received plenty of recognition for his work. In 2003, his old band Stillview was in the Portland Phoenix’s “Top 10” for record sales for nine consecutive weeks. Paul alone was The Portland Phoenix’s 2nd best selling local artist through sales at Bullmoose Music in Maine for four straight weeks. The next year, John Paul was honored as Best Drummer and Best Songwriter for Reindeer Records’ “Rock Off 20,” the statewide battle of the bands in Maine; and his second band, The Posters, won the national Got Milk! Contest for the State of Maine in 2004. Paul has also been played on radio stations worldwide and was ranked #26 on Live365’s “Featured Artists” page, beating out major record label acts.

Fueled by this critical success and his own evolution as a musician, the audiences are getting bigger and bigger—but what about the dream gig? Under the lights, on the stage at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden? “I’d be opening for Death Cab for Cutie a few years from now once the world realizes how amazing that band is,” he says. “My whole family would be there and my brother would jump on stage to play a few songs with me at the end.”

His brother gets most of the credit for keeping him on track with his musical career. “I stopped playing music for a little bit right at the beginning of high school when my parents divorced,” he says, “but my brother moved back to my house and became a kind of father figure to me. He was at every show, whether it was in a band, acting in theater, whatever.”

The impression he wants to leave with listeners is pretty straightforward. Paul says, “I’d like them to think ‘he’s got a good sound, he’s a little corky and cute on stage, maybe even a little shy, but man he’s got his shit together’.” “Maybe they’ll buy the CD with a bottle of wine and ride the emotional roller coaster with me.”

What comes next? John Paul wants to work with a label that takes the time to develop talent. “Too many bands are ‘in’ one second and out the next,” he says. “The best part would be able to play out constantly and not have to worry about setting up your equipment or getting more people to a show to make a club happy.”

If John Paul stays on the road he’s currently on, the clubs are going to be very happy indeed. - Scene Magazine


"John Paul's debut record, 'Belmont Boulevard', is a fantastic collection of songs reminiscent of Ryan Adams and Paul Westerburg. Excellent songs, great hooks, and honest delivery...If you like good music, you will love this record!"

-Brad Pemberton (Ryan Adams and The Cardinals) - Brad Pemberton-Ryan Adams and The Cardinals



"While he was in Nashville, he should have been hitting the publishing houses, because he can definitely write...John Paul's got the sound, the packaging, and the drive to find plenty of fans."

--The Portland Phoenix - The Portland Phoenix


"Belmont Boulevard was one of my favorite albums I played on last year. When I heard the acoustic demos I knew this was going to be fun, and fun it was, I felt like I was a teenager again, the songs so urgent and the band was wonderful" - Dan Dugmore


"If you like guys under 55 who rock, you're better off at Copperfield's, where JOHN PAUL, a local musician who is only 22, will celebrate the release of a new CD called "Belmont Boulevard." Paul sounds as if he's listened to at least a few Ryan Adams CDs and has a track called "21," which he says is a quarter-life crisis anthem. It's OK, John, we all have one." - Boston Globe


It's generally a good thing when your drummer is a fan of your band. It's an even better thing when your drummer is also the drummer for Ryan Adams and The Cardinals and he says, "John Paul's debut record, Belmont Boulevard, is a fantastic collection of songs reminiscent of Ryan Adams and Paul Westerburg. Excellent songs, great hooks, and honest delivery...If you like good music, you will love this record!"

Boston's John Paul has more going for him than high praise from Brad Pemberton. The singer / songwriter plays Copperfields this Friday in support of his debut solo album Belmont Boulevard, out now on Independant. Paul's polished songs have been spinning on college radio stations across the country including our very own 88.9 WERS. "I just want to get as much attention for it as possible," says Paul. "I found the right people and got the sound that I really wanted, and I feel like this is my first true, honest effort to get my music out there."

To get that sound Paul did the record live in Nashville over a two day period with accomplished session musicians including Pemberton, Dan Dugmore (Tim McGraw, James Taylor, Neil Diamond), and Billy Mercer (Ryan Adams) among others. The result is a tightly packaged collection of songs with a definite hint of Tennessee twang. Standouts include "45" and "21" (not all songs have numbered titles), both of which combine concise pop hooks with more narrative verses.

Paul, who is also the frontman for Boston's The Black Tie Affair, says that he took a bit of a different approach to his solo material. "I've been really trying to have the songs about specific subject matter," he says. "I've been writing outside of myself a lot, there are definitely some songs about me, like '21', but a lot of the other songs I wrote from outside my perspective."

Some may be skeptical about a 22 year old writing about a young girl's premature death, but Paul handles "Way Too Soon" like a grizzled veteran, from his rough around the edges verse delivery to the soaring chorus. The song is a fitting bookend to an album that begins with "21" and the line, "Cause seventeen / Was everything / She was full of life / Now she can hardly breathe."

Fans heading to the Copperfields show looking for the bombast of "Way Too Soon" or the harder edges of the album will have to be satisfied with the album, as Paul will be accompanied by much more subdued accompaniment, including a slide guitar, no bass, drums with brushes, and a female backup singer. "I really wanted to step away from the record to see if we could take it in a different direction," Paul says of the live show. "It definitely works, it was a little tricky at first, but it works."

Belmont Boulevard works as well, a solid debut with plenty of flashes of promise and several moments of already realized potential. While Paul may not be Ryan Adams just yet, it's good to see him setting the bar high. There will be more people than the drummer who like his music very soon.

John Paul plays Copperfields on Friday, July 18. His album Belmont Boulevard is available at myspace.com/thejohnpaul (which features a hip-hop remix of "21" as a bonus) as well as iTunes - BostonMusicSpotlight.com


John Paul has the sort of musical dynamic that runs through a lot of Paul Westerberg’s best solo stuff. The guitars have a nice twang to their tone, and the rhythms and attitude are very much like the former ‘Mats frontman. Vocally, Paul sounds like a really young Don McLean mixed with Ryan Adams’ rough edges. Very impressive, no matter how you cut it. “21” is a killer song, showcasing all of these elements. “Set Me Up” certainly swings more to the twangy side of the Ryan Adams pasture, and “Chameleon” sounds like a great, long lost song from early ‘90s college radio...Paul’s formula works perfectly. He sounds like his own man, and it’s definitely a standout tune ("Sleepless"). The production is lush and with any luck, John Paul will soon be a recognized name with this nice collection of songs. - Eat Sleep Drink Music (ESDMUSIC.COM)


John Paul is well known to fans in New England. As the leader of Black Tie Affair he’s toured the East Coast, been a regular at clubs such as Paradise, The Roxy and Middle East Downstairs, and even played CMJ. Now based in L.A., John Paul lets his confessional songwriting style speak for itself, both on CD and on stage. His second solo album, Belmont Boulevard, features some heady talent: Brad Pemberton (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals); Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Tim McGraw); Billy Mercer (Ryan Adams, Mindy Smith) and Jason Lehning (GRAMMY nomination for Best Engineer). Produced by Tom Acousti, Belmont Boulevard should open the eyes of a sleeping nation to the talent that’s been brewing in Boston.

Belmont Boulevard opens with 21, an energetic and jangly rocker with a memorable melody and great hooks. Chameleon takes on an Americana sound with quirky lyrics and an urgent energy that is infectious. Drink and Drive is a raucously bizarre song about love connections made under the influence. 45 may the most commercial rock tune on the album, with a slick sound and a catchy verse than ends in the line "don't make me kill you". Other highlights include Our Time, Come Down Girl and Sinkin' In.

John Paul brings great energy to Belmont Boulevard. He has great songwriting skills and has an enigmatic sound...John Paul does have an affinity for great hooks and musical composition and will build a solid fan base. Belmont Boulevard is a good record...Definitely worth checking out. - Wildy's World--Wildy'sWorld.com


Discography

John Paul's new EP "Combination," recorded with his band The Courtship will be available in July 2010!

*John Paul's new full length "Belmont Boulevard" is available on iTunes and other digital forms now*

Full Length: "Winter Trek"-July 2006

Available at CDBaby.com and also Bull Moose Music and select Newbury Comics locations.

EP: "Burning Down the Library"-Feb 23, 2007

Is available at

www.myspace.com/theblacktieaffairmusic and Bull Moose Music and select Newbury Comics locations. Also available at CDBaby.com and iTunes.

Photos

Bio

When listening to Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter John Paul, it is hard to guess he only recently turned 23. Paul's debut album Belmont Boulevard (2008), was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, with some of Americanas heavy hitters such as pedal steel/electric guitarist Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Tim McGraw), drummer Brad Pemberton (Ryan Adams and The Cardinals), bassist Billy Mercer (Ryan Adams, Mindy Smith, Matthew Ryan). John Paul also worked with pianist/organist Jason Lehning who has been nominated for a Best Engineer Grammy, in addition to working with artists such as Guster, Josh Rouse and Viktor Krauss. Belmont Boulevard was added to over 100 college radio stations nation-wide

Paul has been independently dominating the singer-songwriter scene as he has been Featured on KCAL9 (LA CBS affiliate) via Skipstone Productions' show "So Cal NOW!" Paul has also performed at the UCB Theater as a special guest musician and has brought large crowds to New York City, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.

Pemberton, drummer for Ryan Adams and The Cardinals, said Belmont Boulevard "is a fantastic collection of songs reminiscent of Ryan Adams and Paul Westerberg. Excellent songs, great hooks, and honest delivery.” Dan Dugmore, former musical director of Linda Ronstadt says "Belmont Boulevard was one of my favorite records to play on."

Despite Paul’s age, Belmont Boulevard touches on subject matter that is quite heavy at times for a young man who is still juggling the balance between finishing college and forging ahead as a musician. For example “Way Too Soon,” a song about a young girl who has died too early, is presented with the grace and musicianship of artists several decades his senior. On the other hand, the track “21” could only be written by someone who is entering their 20’s. “I wrote it right before entering my senior year of college and it came out of me so organically and straight from the heart,” says Paul. “It basically is my ‘quarter life’ crisis song. I made no reservations as to how I feel, which I never do when it comes to my music.”